The Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a tribute to Asus’ manufacturing and design. It’s great to see and a great piece of hardware. Although it is not for everyone. To be honest, there’s a good chance this isn’t for anyone, especially given the high price tag, but there is something very attractive about what Asus is trying to do here. If nothing else, it should be commended for thinking outside the box of a gaming laptop and giving us an original gaming tablet.
Windows tablets have been with us for a long time, of course, but they have traditionally suffered when it comes to gaming. That’s because there isn’t a lot of room within its slim dimensions to house the latest hardware, particularly in the GPU front. They simply don’t have the space for the cooling needed to make a GPU worthwhile.
This is not the case here. Inside the amazingly powerful Asus ROG Flow Z13 you’ll find the full-fledged Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. Built around Nvidia’s Ampere architecture, you’re looking at 2560 CUDA Cores, with hardware support for ray tracing and DLSS. To be fair, the “full-featured” is a bit powerful, rated at just 40W, which is somewhat far from its full potential as an 80W GPU, but nonetheless more powerful than many previous tablets. .
It’s worth noting that the RTX 3050 Ti only claims 4GB of GDDR6, which can be a limiting factor for some games. This may result in you not attempting to use HD texture packs, although, given the relatively low power offered, you will likely spend your time trying to tweak the settings to reach playable frame rates rather than playing with higher resolution textures.
The basic idea is that the RTX 3050 Ti in the Flow Z13 is capable of gaming on the go. It’s not a powerhouse, and you’ll have to ditch the settings and access DLSS or FSR where possible, but you maybe game it. This is not something that can be inhaled.
Asus has managed to squeeze a surprisingly powerful CPU into this 12mm-thick chassis as well, in the form of an Intel Alder Lake Core i9 processor. Core i9 12900H is a massive chip, comprising 6 performance cores and eight electronic cores, with a total of 20 threads. The base clock runs at 2.5 GHz, with the ability to boost up to 5 GHz. While I never expected it to hit 5GHz in such a thin chassis, I found it actually capable of doing exactly that.
Asus ROG Flow Z13 specifications
CPU: Intel Core i9 12900H
GPU: NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti (40W)
Screen Size: 13.4 inches
Precision: 1920 x 1200
refresh rate: 120 Hz
memory: 16 GB LPDDR5-5200
storage: 1 TB NVMe PCIe 4.0
I/O: 1x 3.5mm audio jack, 1x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1x Thunderbolt 4 Type-C, 1x ROG XG Mobile interface
Weight: 1.18 kg (2.6 lb)
price: $1,899 | £1,899
This impressive duo of core components is backed by 16GB of LPDDR5-5200 RAM and a fast 1TB NVMe SSD. Asus has incorporated these components into a chassis dominated by a lush 16:10 IPS-level display. There are quite a few options here, topping the screen with a 4K resolution, although reasonable money comes in at the 1920 x 1200 resolution found on this review sample. This isn’t much in demand for the RTX 3050 Ti, yet it still looks great for work and gaming.
The 720p webcam is squeezed into the top edge above the screen as well, along with two microphone points on either side, meaning you’re ready for video conferencing and live broadcasting. The Flow Z13 isn’t port-packed, though you do get a Type-A on the right and a Thunderbolt Type-C port on the left. Then there is the volume button on the right along with the power button.
The left side is also home to Asus’ ROG XG Mobile interface that allows you to connect the same XG Mobile dock released with the Flow X13. Aside from providing four USB ports, HDMI and DisplayPort video output, and RJ45 for Ethernet connectivity, it’s also home to the portable RTX 3080 (powered at 150W) to seriously boost the hardware’s graphic power. This makes for a perfectly efficient gaming system, although it adds to the overall size of the device and also means you’re looking at a total system price of $3,299.
Around the back, you’ll find the built-in kickstand that holds the tablet at a 170-degree angle that’s comfortable for work and play. The assembled-button keyboard, which acts as a cover for the screen during transportation, is held in place on the bottom of the Flow Z13 with the help of magnets. This can be used flat or popped up for a more comfortable typing angle. It’s not the best typing experience ever, with remarkable flexibility, but it’s usable and responsive enough.
The screen/keyboard protector also has the touchpad, which is on the small side, but it’s perfectly fine. You also have the option of touchscreen input, of course, although only if you feel particularly masochistic – Windows 11 still doesn’t provide the best touch experience. You also have the option to plug the mouse into a USB port, which is what you want for any game. Despite the fact that this is a gaming tablet, there are very few tablet games to talk about – Hearthstone and MTG Arena do at least well.
When it comes to live system performance, there’s a lot to like here. The Alder Lake CPU provides some serious horsepower for the actions, especially since it’s backed by fast DDR5 RAM. It’s not the fastest machine we’ve got in the labs, but given the form factor it would be weird if that were the case. It’s a decent option if you want to do some grinding though, and more than enough for most regular jobs.
You get a few performance settings to play with of course, and the numbers shown above are derived from running benchmarks with the default “performance” system profile. Switch the system settings to Turbo mode in the Asus Armory Crate and you’ll get higher numbers – 5627 for the multi-core test in the Cinebench R20 and 12677 for the Cinebench R23, with a single-core rating of 1910.
The video codec scale, X264 also saw a slight uptick with this profile, resulting in an increase of up to 43.08fps, which equates to a 13% improvement to the standard performance settings. That’s not a huge difference, but if you need to do some serious number-crunching, flipping to Turbo mode can definitely save you some time.
Connecting the ROG XG Mobile dock also saw an improvement in raw CPU numbers, as the vapor chamber cooling system should only cater to the Alder Lake chip and not the CPU and GPU combo.
As expected, the RTX 3050 Ti suffers when it comes to gaming. It’s not a write-off, but when you consider the cost of the Flow Z13, you don’t feel like you’re getting much value for money. After all, it’s the GPU you’d typically find in a laptop that costs half what Asus charges here.
The likes of Metro Exodus flipping over the 30fps mark tell the story well enough. Although this is a demanding game, it’s getting a bit off now, and you’ll need to drop the settings a lot in order to get closer to 60fps.
Older, less demanding titles like Horizon Zero Dawn and F1 2020 are more forgiving and have smoother experiences. Although, again, you’re looking at performance that’s roughly half what you’ll get from similarly priced laptops.
Things improve dramatically when the Flow Z13 is connected to XG Mobile, as you’d expect. The RTX 3080 in this machine produces much higher frame rates, and if you’re serious about gaming, an external dock would make a lot more sense – although don’t expect any less for the money.
In general, the Asus ROG Flow Z13 is a strange thing. It’s a nice machine to hold and use. It’s brilliantly crafted, with lots of CNC machining on display, and real attention to detail. It feels good in the hand and, for the most part, works quietly, too.
However, it is frustrating when it comes to actual games, especially when you consider the cost of the system. You can get more power from a more traditional gaming laptop for that kind of money, or a more capable one for much less — the RTX 3060 can be had for around $1,000, and Nvidia also promises we’ll see RTX 3070 laptops Ti of $1,500, which will leave that eating dust.
So as a gaming tablet/laptop, this doesn’t make much sense. It only costs a lot for the gaming performance on offer. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of calls to get a gaming tablet, with most games unsuitable for touchscreen controls. It’s like a big Steam Deck without the controls, which is really not what the industry needs right now.
So while Asus should be commended for trying something new and producing a beautiful machine, it’s a machine that really has no place in the market. Even the XG Mobile dock can’t really retrieve it, because it’s attached to your desk, which isn’t where a tablet does best. In general, this is simply not a device for PC gamers, and I’m still not quite sure who it is He is about.